COMPARISION OF NEPALESE FLOOD –JULY, 1993
WITH THE DISASTER CYCLE
Prem Singh Basnyat
Part I: Comparison
The world’s most imposing mountains dominate Kingdom of Nepal, home to Mount Everest and Lord Gautam Buddha. Although the country is relatively small 147,181 square kilometers, the dramatic peaks of the Himalayas and other mountains occupy 80 percent of its territory. Nepal was closed to foreign visitors until1951, a situation that contributed greatly to its mystique in the west. This small, hospitable country has since become an exceptionally popular destination for travelers, whether they are in search of climbing challenges or spiritual enlightenment. Nepal can be divided into three geographical regions, each stretching from east to west across the country. The southernmost strip of land, the Terai (plain area), is bordered to the north by Himalayan foothills and to the south by the Ganges River. The area was originally covered with tropical vegetation, but has been almost completely converted to agricultural production. Tarai is now the breadbasket of Nepal and is covered with farms.
Mitigation For Disaster Management
Disaster occurrences seem to be quite frequent in Nepal. However, the earthquake -1934 is the first benchmark of 20th century. It gave a big lesson in mitigation and preparedness for disaster. Moreover, many Nepalese took part in many parts of the world in First and Second World War in the request of British Government from Royal Nepalese Army and British Gorkha Battalions. [i] Which gave broadens in thinking and vision in many aspects including disaster management. Finally, many trainings and seminars provided by foreign nations and NGOs gave the line of sight for this sector. British Government is major contributor for training and other assistances.
Ultimately, Prime minister is responsible in disaster management and he is the chairman (president) in mitigation, preparedness and rescue and relief management the Central Disaster Relief Committee (CDRC) works under him. Then Home Minister is chairman of Central Disaster Relief Coordination Committee (CDRCC) and it is main body on the ground. Most of all ministries have disaster management cell and it is under CDRC. The regional, Zonal and district disaster relief committees (DDRC) act under CDRC . The village level committee formulates only in need as task force basis. But the problem is instability of government and very fast posting in key persons in civil service. Which hampers to the experienced minds in mitigation and preparedness action. Luckily, Royal Nepalese army has not this problem and it is the main pillar to provide suggestions in this phase too.
The Central Disaster Relief Committee keeps touch with NGOs, UN Agencies and domestic cells. It conducts a regular meeting and emergency meeting takes place as necessity basis. Prime minister and home minister have their separate disaster relief fund. Other ministries also keep some funds for emergency needs. His Majesty’s Government (HMG) of Nepal has been providing domestic and foreign trainings for disaster management, which is betterment for preparedness. Especially, army and police have been practiced on rescue and relief operations as a part of their regular training. Some efforts have been made for public awareness too. Many international organisations too have been involving in this sector.
The Disaster Impact
Nepal is susceptible to floods, debris flows, landslides, earthquake etc and it has long disasters history. Without the time lapse for memory of 1988 earthquake, floods and landslides of the July 1993 added new problem to the nation. Weather patterns over the globe at that time show a low-pressure zone over the regions of East Africa, South Asia and West Pacific. And the low pressure created over mid Nepal caused unexpected and sudden climatic imbalances. [ii] The heavy rainfall continued for three days from 19 to 21 July 1993 in some areas of central Nepal. The maximum daily rainfall of 540 mm with, hourly rainfall of 70 mm was observed on 19th July. [iii] This was the highest scale eve, recorded in Nepal. Likewise, the peak flood levels were also the highest in many rivers, even exceeding the design water level and causing complete destruction of barrages, embankments and other structures, and extensive inundation in Terai (plains).
Normally the monsoon occurs in Nepal from around May to September each year playing major role in Nepal's agro based economy. But this year nature turned to be cruel during this period. The floods of unprecedented magnitude along with big landslides and debris flows were experienced in Central and Eastern Nepal. Which caused heavy losses of infrastructures, lives and properties. Even the capital city Kathmandu was blocked nearly for a month creating unrest to inhabitants of Kathmandu Valley. Which hampered the national economy. [iv]
Relief, Rescue and Rehabilitation
The government went into immediate action. A Central Disaster Relief Committee headed by the Prime Minister was established along with the setting up of the Prime Minister Disaster Relief Fund. For the effective operation of the resume and relief activities, an eleven member executive body Central Disaster Relief Coordination Committee chaired by the Home Minister was also formed. During the emergency Period, this body met daily to supervise and monitor the relief walks. A sub committee On relief and treatment, monitor on supply, shelter and rehabilitation was constituted as source hands to this body. Two Collection and Distribution Centres were established, one at the Tribhuvan International Airport and another at Simara, the latter known as Regional Service Centre. These two routers did their best in providing relief goods to the most affected districts e.g. Chitwan, Makawanpur, Rautahat, Sarlahi, Sindhuli and Dhading. The District Disaster Relief Committees (DDRC) of the affected districts was also quite active in not only the collection and distribution of relief materials to the victims, but also in the coordinating and monitoring of the relief operation. In fact international monitor teams attached to Sarlahi, Makawanpur, Rautahat and Chitwan helped the respective DDRC in the effective operation and monitoring of the relief goods distribution system. The Government showed its anxiety for the proper distribution of relief goods by not only the initiation of the international monitors, but also by itself despatching a monitoring team promptly to the most affected districts with the authority to take action against anyone involved in irregular activities in the relief operation.Relief materials were distributed to the affected householders through the local distributing centers. An appeal made by HMG/Nepal for relief assistance to her people, friendly countries, international committees and donor agencies, made a very prompt and encouraging response. While more than Rupees. 12 crores were collected at the Prime Minister's Disaster Relief Fund, commodity assistance more than Rupees. 69 cores were received from friendly nations and donor agencies. Relief assistance came under form of food grains, plastic sheets, utensils, cloths, tents, medicines, blankets, kerosene, plastic jerkins etc. Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) was the key player in rescue and relief operations. Because it has resources (small planes and helicopters) and trained manpowers too. [v] They had done lot of helicopter rescue and other lives saving missions. It provided big contributions to make diversions, temporary bridges, fixing the bailey bridges and clearing the road in Prithivi and Tribhuvan highway. The bailey bridges were the help provided by Geman [vi] and British Government and some British Army personnel also on the ground to fix the bridges with RNA engineers. [vii] Nepal Police was the next effective organisations in this field. In order to help the people in affected areas Army, police, government agencies, NG0s and local people took prompt action for relief. The Disaster Relief Coordination Committee coordinated these efforts. In view of he magnitude of the disaster and seriousness of the situation, UN and international organizations, friendly nations and ING0s promptly responded to the appeal made by the government providing assistance in cash, equipments, goods etc. and sent teams for relief operations and medical treatment. The civil servants/ professionals offered donation to the fund rose for disaster relief. [viii] The Women's Association of Royal Nepalese Army and Nepal Police contributed a lot to collect clothes, foods and cash money. [ix] The logistic service unit was organized in Tribhuvan International Airport at Kathmandu and Regional Service Centre at Simara Airport. Over 31,000 people took refugee in different camps. Different regional and village level relief camps were set up at 65 places for provision of emergency relict supplies such as food, medicines and clothes. [x]
The biggest hydroelectric project was the Kulekhani .It had two power plants e.g. Kulekhani I and Kulekhani II suffered severe damages . [xi] Debris flows caused by the incessant rain brought thousands of tons of boulders down the mountain stream and broke away the penstock pipe at Jurikhet Khola causing stoppage of Kulekhani I system. The intake of Kulekhani II at Mandu Khola was also damaged by the debris flows. A boulder as big as 4000 tons of weight (about 20 in x 10 m x 8 m) flowed down the Mandu Khola to near the Mandu intake.This happened at a time when the people were having to bear power shedding owing to only 203 megawatts of power being produced against the present demand of 250 Megawatts. The damage to the Kulelkhani hydropower system meant a short fall of 40% in the national power system. [xii] The landslide and flood severely damaged the no I and II hydro plants. The penstocks and other houses were very badly damaged. Which caused to use of expensive kerosene and candles, stopped many factories and industries and cut off of many jobs and increase unemployment, increase of thieves and other unsocial activities, black marketing in essential house hold items and price incensement.
Tribhuvan and Prithivi Highways is the lifeline of Nepal.Tribhuvan Highway, the oldest, connecting Kathmandu Valley to Raxaul (Indian Border) running mostly through the ridge also suffered severe damage. Three bridges ,23 culverts and 534 mtr of road section at 19 places were completely washed out. Retaining structures failed at more than 103 meters. Around Palung and Aghor the highway was lost for several hundred meters length, At Khanigau a big debris flow caused destruction about 100 mtr length of road which needed about one week to repair. This highway was closed for more than one month.
Similarly, the Prithivi highway which connects Kathmandu to Terai and India was severely damaged in many places causing traffic blockade for about a month. Some sections were covered by landslides and most part of the highway was covered with floodwater of Trisuli River causing difficulty for damage assessment of affected areas. Three major bridges of Agra River (Mahadevbesi), Belkhhu River and Malekhu River were destroyed by debris flows. One span of two span bridge of Malekhu, all spans of three span bridge of Belkhu, and three spans of four span bridge of Mahadevtiesi were washed out. Severe road damages and failures of retaining structures occurred at more than 60 places. Jogimara landslide caused traffic blockade for about one week. [xiii]
Some of the rivers flood made very big losses. In the East Rapti River, the bank was breached in Chitawan District and the rapid flowing water ran over several villages. 5300 families were affected including 22 dead. Over 2800 houses were totally or partly damaged. 1522 hectares of irrigation land was buried under the sand. [xiv]
Similarly, Bagmati River cost the biggest loss. It starts from capital district Kathmandu and ends from Indian border. The most affected areas were the downstream, plain areas. Due to the darnage of eastern and western canals and flooding over the Bagmati river caused the human loss of 789 persons and affected 30,200 families. [xv] Many villages located in the islands of the river or by the river bank were totally damaged, The most affected was Sankarapura village in Sarlahi District.Which is near the Indian Border and on the eastern side of the river, where as many as 223 persons lost their lives and a few ruins of houses remain without dwellers even a few months after the disaster .People living at both bank of the river were not aware of the impending danger when the flood hit their villages .Because the heavy rainfall was only at upstream of the rivers and the rains were less in the downstream areas. A peaceful night turned into nightmare all of a sudden. Some were swept away with their houses without noticing the danger and some were swept away while attempting to save themselves from the midnight floods. Many clung to their cattle and trees but not to avail. Many died attempting to save their family members. To the north of the Indian border, Gaur Municipality with population of more than twenty thousand was submerged under flood water for weeks with water depth of more than two meters.
The rainfall of July 19 to 21 was concentrated at Kulekhani watershed, which lies at the mountain area of Makwanpur District. Landslides and debris flows were major disastrous events. In many tributaries landslides compounded flood. In this district alone 242 persons died and 14,748 families were affected. Over 3600 houses were partly or completely damaged and about 4,656 hectares of cultivated land was destroyed. [xvi] Phedigau of Palung VDC was perhaps one of the most affected in the District. Before the disaster two small mountain streams surrounded Phedi Village. Debris flows from these two streanisjoined upstream the village and hit the village directly. Peaceful village, which was rich for vegetable cultivation, turned into a sea of debris. 64 people were killed in this village alone. One steep strean, called Kitini accumulated a huge amount of boulder debris destroying 9 houses at Thanabazar of Palung Village Development Committee (VDC). The bridge of Tribhuvan Highway was just saved from the debris. Agra VDC suffered many landslides at Chisapani, Chaubas and Chaap killing 39 people. The landslides compounded debris flows at Agra River caused failure of Mahadevbsi bridge of Prithivi Highway.
Sindhuli district also suffered from floods, landslides and debris flows a the same time. The Marin Khola breached its banks in many areas before joining to Bagmati River upstream of Bagmati Barrage. The road joining to district headquarter was blocked for about one and half month due, to the flood. Dhading and Kabhrepalanchok Districts were similarly affected by flood and landslide. That disaster claimed 94 lives affecting 15,152 families with 4,475 houses completely or partially destroyed. Standing crops over 6100 hectares were wiped out. 40 districts out of a total 75 district were affected.
Barely three weeks after the heavy rain another water induced tragedy occurred on 8th and 9th August. The districts of Panchthar and Taplejung in North East Nepal along with Sindhuli, Dhanusha, Mohotari, Sarlahi, Rautahat and Bara District of Central Nepal were hard hit. At that time 50 people were killed, 1,956 families were affected and 181 houses were completely or partially damaged. [xvii]
Impact on Capital
Besides the direct damages to the people of affected areas, the people in Kathmandu had to endure hardships. Nepal is totally depended on land or air transport, it is land locked country. One motor able road connects to Tibet, China. But, it is far away from either Beijing or Shanghai. So, this road is normally useful for small trade rather national type. So, 90% Nepalese trade runs through Indian sea or land. Trade by air transport is very expensive. So, those roads are like the vein for national economy. Moreover Nepal does not have big reserve dumping houses and stores for day to day's needs. . Most of the Nepalese roads run through very nearer of riverbanks. So that, the 1993s floods washed away many portions of those roads, and Kathmandu, the capital was cut off from road communication for almost a month. Then the people in Kathmandu and other mountainous areas suffered from: scarcity of daily uses goods, black-marketing (petrol. Diesel, cooking gas, kerosene etc), smuggling from Indian and Nepalese traders, increasing of prices, many things had to be bought from coupon system and a queue, which took even 4 hours to get one litter kerosene or one kg sugar, reduction on daily wises laboring jobs and increase of unsocial activities.
Finally, the magnitude of the disaster was enormous. The disaster has so far claimed 1259 human lives. 201 Persons are still unaccounted for. In all, 73,606 families have been affected with 39,043 houses fully or partially damaged. About 43,330 hectares of fertile land have been washed away by floods or covered with landslides. The damage to infrastructures has been heavy. About 367 kilometres of road have been damaged, 213 permanent, wooden and suspension bridges have been washed away. 38 large to small irrigation projects and thousands of farmer managed irrigation schemes have also been destroyed. 452 school blocks, hospitals all government buildings have been damaged. The interruption on the regular supply of electricity affected every industry, factory and mill decreasing the production. Total losses, Nepalese Rupees in crores were as under: [xviii]
- Energy and infrastructure sector- 277.6206
- Agriculture sector- 113.6967
- Housing and shelter sector-66.7100
- Land reclamation- 35.7800
- Drinking water sector-1.6891
- Forest sector-0.9441
In view of this enormous damage, of unprecedented magnitude, people in the affected areas will have to suffer difficulties for year to come until they will be able to resume their normal life. More serious is the adverse effect of the disaster on the social and economic development of the country that has been achieved in the past decade with national efforts assisted by a number of donors in the world.
According to the National Planning Commission, Nepal the needs assessment was (Rupees in crores): energy and infrastructure sector 62.1860, transport sector 123.0996, irrigation sector 92.3350, housing and shelters 68.5000 and drinking water supply 2.0000. [xix]
Then His Majesty The King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, Her Majesty The Queen and Crown Prince visited most of the disaster areas immediately. Then king gave several directions to Prime Minister. Prime Minister, other respective ministers and related Members of Parliament took field visit and gave several directives for rehabilitation and reconstruction of flood victims to related offices and ministries. Moreover, HMG provided cash money, technical support to official construction and loan to reconstruct the houses and other structures. Honestly, government could not provide technical support to public sector e.g. for poor people. They built their homes as own traditional methods and in own chosen areas without any vulnerability and risk assessments.
However, to reconstruct the different schools, provision of technical and construction materials input at the village level and constructing low cost houses for demonstrations, encouragement for adoption of flood and earthquake resistant designs, formation of a Central flood Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Committee under the chairmanship of Minister for Housing and Physical Planning, utilization of two percent of project budget as contingency for reconstructions, HMG mobilized all material and financial resources for the reconstruction action.
To conclude, Nepal was even not able to reconstruct of the damages of the earthquake of 1998. Unfortunately, another disaster took place. It is really the bad luck for poor Nepalese people. Spending national resources in disaster management is very big burdens for Nepal. Moreover, it has very big amount of foreign loans. Being a poor country, these disasters pushed back Nepal beyond 10 years in national development. Another bad luck has been occurred since last seven years e. g. Insurgency (fighting) with Maoist Guerillas .Which has been costing thousands of lives and billions of properties.
Finally, it is not possible to predict types and exact impacts of disasters. Every efforts for disaster plan is firstly, for preventive action and secondly, to reduce the hazards. So, public awareness, education and training, simulation activities, demonstrations, programmes for reduction poverty, good mitigation, create resources for quick response are the main guiding principles in disaster planning and the Disaster Cycle is the Bible for disaster plan.
Comments on "The Chain of Disaster Risk reduction" Model
Obviously, all the models and principles provided in Disaster Management handouts are very meaningful and worthy. Honestly, it is very difficult for me to grade among the models. However, I choose this model to write something about it and I favour it than others due to the given reasons.
The main theoretical value of this model is to reduce the likelihood of harmful consequences arising from the interactions of hazards and vulnerable conditions. Which may avoid the source of potential harms or a situation with the community, property and the environment? Moreover, it covers all the public awareness, education, early warning system, mitigation, preparedness including laws and legislation. Especially, I reinforce in public awareness and education. Because, it is basic need and not expensive and programmes should not run separately. In other words, it is very effective model for developing countries, like Nepal. Of course, "Prevention is better than cure" so government has to give strength in this sector. And education and awareness are backbones to supper prevention. So, it needs to develop a safety culture, which is feasible through this model.
First of all it is very simple model to execute on the ground and it is applicable in every part of the world and every nation from their capabilities. Of course Nepal and America may not have same inputs on it but general line of direction is same. I again give strength to poor nations to apply this model on the ground. It needs commitments rather than cash. Moreover, a culture is more valuable than bundles of cash. Which depends on National Development Plan? The risk reduction model covers laws and legislations, development of the national management team, training and education, protection of critical facilities, development of safe communities, mitigation and preparedness, public awareness programmes, early warning systems, national and local preparedness plans and insurance incentives too .So I believe that it gives practical success on the ground.
However, poverty and illiteracy are the main sources of vulnerability. In fact, empty stomach may not follow the public awareness. Basic need is desirable for every human being. Unfortunately, it could not manage in every nation. So, developing (poor) nations are more vulnerable from disaster. My feeling emphasis to launch poverty reduction programmes along with this model.
[i] Tulasiram Vaidya, History of Royal Nepalese Army,(Kathmandu: Army Headquarter, 1992),pp 315-321.
[ii] Annual Disaster Review 1993,( Lalitpur: water Induced Disaster Prevention Technical Center, 1994),p.20.
[iii] Photo Album Disaster of July 1993 in Nepal, ( Central disaster relief Committee, Ministry of Home, December 1993),p.4.
[iv] Disaster in Nepal 1993, (Video Cassette), Disaster Management section, Cranfield University Library.
[v] I was involved one week in distribution of foods, cloths and utensils managed by Women's Association of Royal Nepalese Army in different part of disaster areas.
[vi] Annual Disaster Review 1993,Op.Cit.,p.68.
[vii] Photo Album Disaster of July 1993 in Nepal,Op.Cit.,p.18.
[viii] According to the video cassette provided by Professor Ian Davis.
[ix] I was one of the team member to rising the emergency fund.
[x] Photo Album Disaster of July 1993 in Nepal,Op.Cit., p.7.
[xi] The water source is same one and now the Kulekhani III also has been running. So, this area is very important from strategic viewpoint.
[xii] Photo Album Disaster of July 1993 in Nepal, Op Cit.pp 4-5.
[xiii] Fllod Damage Assessment, (seventh Revision), (Kathmandu: National Planning Commission, 10 September 1993),p.1.
[xv] Annual Disaster Review 1993,Op.Cit.,p.57.
[xviii] Flood Damage Assessment, (seventh Revision), Op.Cit.,pp. 6-9.